The life of an English Teacher

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They hand trim the trees into great shapes. I've seen birds and spirals.
They hand trim the trees into great shapes. I’ve seen birds and spirals.

8/13/2016

I’ve survived my second week of classes, with includes Exams for each class (except my one off-set class, which had an exam last week.) I still have today’s class, Level 9, to grade, and that will take a while. There are now 18 in the class! It’s really too many for the room, but usually 1 or 2 people don’t show up, so that helps with space. Next week I give oral exams, which don’t take as long. I’m still learning the paperwork, but keeping up.

Today may or may not have been Amanda’s last day. She’s been the temporary head teacher, but has accepted a new fulltime job with Honeywell. I say “may not” because the head teacher at the smaller, downtown branch quit when she found out that the scheduling duties for the main branch would fall onto her. So now no one is doing scheduling and we are halfway through a 4 week session. Amanda indicated she was willing to do some of the duties, part-time, but she has to work things out with Michael, the director. I hope they can come to a fair agreement for everyone. Both branches need someone to do scheduling.

I’m figuring out ways to keep my food costs down while still eating healthy, with the added degree of difficulty that I don’t want to use the kitchen much. I’ve decided that my fruits and vegetables twice a week will probably come from a gaspachos (mixed fruit and vegetable “salad” in a cup, see previous post) or a smoothie/liquados. I just found a whole, freshly barbequed chicken (chicken a la Lena) with corn torillias and salsa for 100 pesos (about $5.50US)! I’ll be eating on that all week. While there are many small grocery stores (tiendas de abarrotes), they don’t carry much that I’m interested. It’s mostly snacks, soda, water and maybe beer. I need fruits, vegetables, wine and easy to prepare proteins. I end up walking many blocks to get a slightly larger store. To find a real supermarket, I need a taxi, especially to come home with all the groceries. And I still don’t have much space in the refrigerator, so I can’t get much in bulk anyway. Eating on the street may turn out to be as cost effective, and certainly easier, than shopping and cooking.

There’s no washer here, but there’s an excellent laundress about a block away. I pay 40 pesos for a week’s worth of laundry—about $2.20US. Everything comes folded perfectly and is done in 24 hours or less. There are (slightly) less expensive places, but I’m so happy with her service, that I doubt I’ll change.

There’s a leak on the drain of the bathroom sink, just as it connects to the wall. I noticed it yesterday morning and let the landlord know right away. Possibly it’s been leaking for a while and I just thought that people were splashing water onto the floor when they used the sink. Orlando tells me this is an intermittent problem that doesn’t really get fixed, just patched. I can see that the connection from the drain to the wall is a mismatched pipe, and it would be difficult to seal the two. To fix it correctly, you’d need to replace pipe. I also notice that the drain doesn’t have a u-trap. The bathroom downstairs doesn’t either. It’s not the best set up, but I’m told that is the way work is done here. By contrast, the tile job in the bathrooms is excellent and the floor in my bedroom has relatively new “mock” hardwood that is laid very well. Maybe it’s just plumbing?

Enchiladas Suezes--It's not really swiz cheese, but it is good. This is a common entre here, and the corn tortillas hold chicken and are covered in salsa verde and cheese.
Enchiladas Suiezes–It’s not really swiz cheese, but it is good. This is a common entree here. The corn tortillas hold chicken and are covered in salsa verde and white cheese.

8/15/16

Monday. The bathroom sink is still leaking. Auturo said he would fix it over the weekend. He came Saturday around noon. He pulled out the pedestal (which is easy since the sink is mounted to the wall and doesn’t sit on it). He put tools on the floor. He opened the door to the terrace (which has giant cockroaches at night), left mail on the upstairs tables…..and that’s it. Nothing. He didn’t come back Sunday either. In the meantime, Orlando used the sink just as he always does so the floor is wet with god-knows-what. I texted Arturo again today (Monday). He didn’t reply. I can avoid using the kitchen, but I NEED a bathroom.

It’s surprisingly dry here. My skin often feels gritty and I’m grateful to wash my hands (assuming I have a working sink). I actually damp mop the floor to my room most days (with the head of floor dusting mop I brought from Russia. Got tired of buying one at each place. Still need to find a handle that fits it, though). The computer screen always needs to be wiped off. The humidity is 60% today. I don’t think I’ve ever lived somewhere with low humidity. I like it, but use 10 times as much skin lotion and my lips are often dry, close to cracking. This weather makes my neck look wrinkly and old. I hate that.

The hand towel and washcloths in the kitchen are the same ones that were there when I moved in 20 days ago. Ick! I already know the dishes aren’t clean. I simply can’t use the kitchen, except in a very limited way. I’ve not been able to find paper plates, but I broke down and bought disposable, Styrofoam plates. Bad for the environment, but at least I’ll live. Will continue to look for a more eco-friendly option. In the meantime, I have my own cup (borrowed from the kitchen), silverware & knife (mine) which I wash myself and keep in my room along with snacks, like nuts, fruit, avocados and whole grain crackers. And cheap red wine. I’m still eating on the barbecued chicken I bought over the weekend and arranged in my tiny fridge space. Still tasty.

Mr Yogurt's doesn't look like much, but it's clean and the staff are friendly.
Mr Yogurt’s doesn’t look like much, but it’s clean and the staff is friendly.
Mr Yogurt's old tricycle, parked out front.
Mr Yogurt’s old tricycle, parked out front.

8/16/2016

Yesterday, another teacher quit. In the three weeks since I arrived, that’s three at our branch and one at the smaller, downtown branch. Paolo didn’t even give notice, just walked in and said he was done. His classes were canceled last night and I pity the person who has to find a replacement. (Turns out he had few hours and was only being paid 45 pesos an hour.) Saturday was Amanda’s last day. She had been willing to stay on part-time, though she wanted a higher hourly wage to do so. Seems Michael, the director, didn’t want to do that, Also, Amanda felt Michael blamed her something that she didn’t do. She’s not coming back. Edwardo had already given his notice when I met him my first week. The pay is poor. There’s no guarantee with scheduling. Communication is meager. Basically, it’s every school I’ve worked at so far in the last 2 years. The one bright spot is that yesterday was payday. Not only was the money on time, I didn’t have to go begging for it. That’s something.

Another good note is that the bathroom sink in the apartment was finally repaired. I can wash my face and hands again without stepping into the shower. And I don’t have to wear boots in the bathroom. It’s a miracle!

This is my second visit to Mr. Yogurt's, but I just noticed these signs. They read, (left to right} "A coffee--$25 pesos" "A coffee please--$20 pesos" "Good Day, a coffee please--$15 pesos" It pays to be polite.
This is my second visit to Mr. Yogurt’s, but I just noticed these signs. They read, (left to right} “A coffee–$25 pesos” “A coffee, please–$20 pesos” “Good Day, a coffee, please–$15 pesos” It pays to be polite.

8/17/16

Mexicans are expressive people and talk with their hands. I can relate to that. However, some gestures are different from what I’m accustomed to. When a Mexican puts their thumb and forefinger about an inch apart (as if they were measuring a small distance) it means they are talking about money, probably the lack of it. If someone is too busy to talk, or can’t speak to you when you greet them (such as you are in a busy classroom and they are in the hallway) you can crook your pointer finger as a way to say “hello.”

This was unusual. It's an Italian soda with "perlas explosivas." OK, so the pearls didn't really explode. The pearls are balls of juice with a thin outer coating of something like tapioca. You could pick the flavor soda and the flavor of the pearls. My pearls were mango and really good. The soda is Mojito, but it was too heavy on the mint and not enough on the lime (plus no rum). It ended up tasting like liquid chewing gum. But my breath smelled fresh! Also in the photo are the candies we were given with our bill. There are sweet and salty--two tastes that are commonly put together here. In fact, if a candy is sweet tamarind with salt and chili, it could be named the national candy.
This was unusual. It’s an Italian soda with “perlas explosivas.” OK, so the pearls didn’t really explode. The pearls are balls of juice with a thin outer coating made of something like tapioca. You could pick the flavor soda and the flavor of the pearls. My pearls were mango and really good. The soda is Mojito, but it was too heavy on the mint and not enough on the lime (plus no rum). It ended up tasting like liquid chewing gum. But my breath smelled fresh!
Also in the photo are the candies we were given with our bill. There are sweet and salty–two tastes that are commonly put together here. In fact, if a candy is sweet tamarind with salt and chili, it could be named the national candy.

8/18/2016

I just had an amazing sandwich at a place called Mr. Yogurt’s. Orlando had recommended the restaurant and it’s right near the flat. It was the best Cuban sandwich I’ve had since I left Atlanta. These are called tortas. They aren’t like the dry bocadillos we had in Spain. The bread is yeastier, though a tad smaller, and toasted on the grill. There was an abundance of meat (both ham and bacon) and cheese, plus mayo, lettuce, tomato and avocado. I also had a liquadoes, a mixed fresh fruit and vegetable smoothie. This one was called “Iron Woman” and had beet, carrot, banana, a little honey and yogurt. YUM. I walked away stuffed, with my minimum daily requirement of fruits and veggies.

Also, I’ve learned that my name is translated as Berta here. Interesting. I like Beth better. Even Bet (since they can’t say the “th” sound).

This is my Tortas Cubana. This one was actually taken the second day. The first day I had one, I forgot to bring my phone so I couldn't take a photo. It was so good, I got another the next day. This sandwich was $38 pesos.
This is my Tortas Cubana. This is a photo of my second sandwich. The first day I had one, I forgot to bring my phone so I couldn’t take a photo. It was so good, I got another the next day. This sandwich was $38 pesos.

8/19/2016

Just began my end of session paperwork. This is not the fun part. I’ll give about 25 oral exams tonight and 18 more tomorrow. Next week, final exams. The four week session is just flying by. All the paperwork is done by hand, which seems unnecessary in the computer age. A shared Excel spreadsheet would do the trick. I wouldn’t have to rewrite the grades on different forms, not to mention the lengthy names. Seriously, everyone here has four names and they use them all! I’m getting writer’s cramp. And then, someone else has to take my handwritten notes and put them into the computer. It seems like such a waste of time (none of which I’m paid for) and so much chance for inaccuracy when copying from one sheet to another. But it’s not like anyone cares about my opinion.

Really wondering about the schedule for the next 4 week session. I expect to have the same number of hours, or even more, since we have fewer teachers. I prefer just to work in the evenings, not a split shift where I come in for a couple hours in the morning and then a couple hours in the evening. Morning classes begin at 7am—too early! And evening classes aren’t over until 9pm. It’s bad when you have to do both. It doesn’t appear I have any choice, however. Of course, we have no one doing the scheduling, so anything can happen.

This is the Iron Woman--beet and carrot juice, banana, yogurt and honey. A Vampiro is the same, except no yogurt. Tasty! This liquodos was $25 pesos.
This is the Iron Woman–beet and carrot juice, banana, yogurt and honey. A Vampiro is the same, except no yogurt. Tasty! This liquodos was $25 pesos.
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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain and Mexico. I'm exploring the world.

11 thoughts on “The life of an English Teacher”

  1. Those enchiladas look very tasty!

    I shouldn’t laugh, because I know it’s your life and must be difficult to deal with, but your 8/16 entry about all of the employee changes sounds a little like a soap opera. I hope it gets better quickly.

    1. Wait until the post when I explain the Payton Place of an apartment I live in. Latino Telenovelas are not just on TV. They are a way of life!

  2. I love reading your blog! I love that you are having these adventures and sharing. I’d lose my mind living as you do, as I love my gardens, my home and simple comforts.. but we each must follow our own path. You are so brave to pursue yours and I love sharing it with you! Please keep blogging.
    Now on to living in Mexico. I would weigh 300 lbs!!! I guess I thought there would be a lot of small roadside produce stands as we have here, but evidently not. Perhaps because this is a non rural area or their diets just aren’t heavy in vegetables? Doesn’t sound like a blue zone! Interesting.

    1. OH, but there are small produce stands–mostly selling a single, seasonal fruit rather than vegetables. But “stands” may not be the right word. They are usually wheelbarrows, easily moved if no one is buying or they lose their shade. There are also fruit stands that are a tad more stable and they usually sell large cups of chopped fruit and vegetables for easy consumption. There may be many more rural stands selling whole fruits and vegetables, but I don’t have transportation, so I never see them. I’d say there are a lot of fruits and vegetables in the Mexican diet.

      And, yes, I could easily gain weight here. I’ve got to find a gym!

  3. I alternate between envy of your lifestyle and gratitude that it’s not happening to me. 🙂 I consistently envy your courage to travel with so little surety of support. Still hope to meet up with you somewhere, but travel (for pleasure) has been severely diminished of late.

    Stay safe and well, and enjoy yourself!

    1. So lovely to hear from you. Yeah, this life isn’t a bed of roses, but I’m never bored and I will take it any day over my old, cubical life. Hope to meet you and Kathy again sometime. I think of you both fondly and keep you in my prayers.

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